Cyprus to Panama – and beyond
Anita’s Diary Part 7
Introduction by Margaret Sheard….
It has been some time since we had an update on the adventures of Anita Green and Mal Barber following their move to Panama from North Cyprus but Anita has now put pen to paper tell us of some more of their very interesting travels. To see Anita’s articles about the move to Panama and their South American travel adventures see the links at the end of this article.
Travels in Europe,
a month in Belize and Xmas/New Year in Aruba
I can’t believe 9 months have gone by since I last wrote about our trip to Cartagena. It has been eventful and busy. We finally settled into a house in El Espino on the way up to El Valle, a town built inside an extinct volcano.
In July\August last year we went back to Europe. We visited Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges and London. I enjoyed the sightseeing and really like the Netherlands and Belgium, but didn’t like being cold in summer!
Back in the warmth of Panama, we began to realise that we missed the European way of life, and that we had, had enough of all things American/Canadian, which is what Panama is all about. Also the cost of living has shot up and they are building shopping malls and towns at an alarming rate. Two weeks away and things had changed.
Although we were thinking that we should make a move to Portugal, we decided to wait and see what we thought of Belize, so we went for a month.
We booked a house on an organic farm on the Hummingbird Highway for a month but it didn’t quite work out that way due to unexpected torrential rain all month, which was not normal for November, and the sudden sale of our house in TRNC, requiring a better internet connection than the farm or surrounding area could provide. So we relocated to a house in Belmopan, the capital of Belize.
Belize is a lovely little country. It’s like being in a time warp in a lot of ways. People always say good morning when passing in the street. The radio was really nostalgic, reminding me of childhood days at Grandma’s house. There is a large community of Mennonites, complete with the blue costumes, hats and horse and carts. They shun modern day things and it is quite easy for them to do this in Belize. However, this doesn’t mean Belize doesn’t have modern day amenities, they just aren’t so obvious.
Belize is less American, thanks to it having been British for so long before independence. But the Americans are creeping in and areas like the beach town of Placencia have become more Americanised.
During our month I got to try out the medical system. I had an allergic reaction to a bite and knew from a similar experience a few years ago in Panama, that I needed an injection and medication. At the time we were still at the farm and had not yet hired a car, so we took the bus into Belmopan to go to the hospital because it was Sunday and no doctors were open. The bus should take just under an hour but it failed to be able to climb one of the hills en-route. We all had to get off and walk up. We waited patiently in the hot sun, but no bus. Apparently it took several run ups to try and get up the hill but it failed. Eventually the next bus (they run once an hour) turned up and we continued on. From the bus station we took a taxi to the hospital because we weren’t sure where it was.
Inside the hospital we eventually were told where we needed to go for outpatients. We were told to check in at the window and get a number. There was no one there and no numbers, but there were a few people sitting so we decided to wait and see. Eventually a nurse arrived and put out a box of cardboard numbers. When my number was called I went in to the nurse who entered all my details on the computer and gave me a slip of paper with a number on. She informed me that this was my patient number for the Belize health system and to present it anytime I ever need to go to hospital anywhere in Belize. So I am now part of the healthcare system with all my info on computer. I then got called in to see the doctor. She decided I needed the injection, plus various medications. She wrote a prescription for the pharmacy and told me to go down to them quickly, as they would be closing very soon, and then come back to her. I found the pharmacy down the corridor and collected a large batch of pills and hydrocortisone cream. I returned to the doctor who gave me the syringe etc for my jab and sent me to another nurse to have it administered. I really wish I wasn’t allergic to these bugs because the allergy is painful and the injections to remedy it are extremely painful. The amazing thing though was all this treatment and medications were completely free!
We also got to try out immigration because you can have a 30 day visa but we were there 32 days so had to go and get an extension. It was a small building with a packed indoor waiting area and people sitting in the shade outside. I picked up a number from a guard on the gate at the entrance, different colours depending on what you needed. We then had to wait for the guard on the door to the office to call your number, go to the relevant window (similar to Lefkosa), they fill in information on a form, you pay at the cash window and go back, entered on computer, then passport passed to next window and hand written up in large ledger and off you go for another 30 days. Total time about 30 minutes including wait. You can do this indefinitely.
Our time in Belize was not utilized to the full and we didn’t get to see that much, due to the rain and the necessity of being by the internet to liaise with our estate agent and solicitor, but we did get to one Mayan ruin right on the border with Guatemala. It was interesting and Malcolm climbed it, vertigo preventing me as usual. We did get a very short time in Belize City. Everyone says it is dangerous but I find in general the Belizean people to be friendly and polite. At the Governor’s Mansion, which was closed for renovation, the guard chatted happily with us, apologised that he couldn’t let us in for a look around but took our camera and went off around the grounds and took pictures for us, I can’t see that happening in the UK or many other countries.
In short we liked Belize. It might turn out to be the place we spend winters, but we have worked out it is necessary to be back in Europe. My mum would prefer it, my sons would prefer it, my Italian family would prefer it and the UK government have messed with our finances so much (pensions), that Europe is the only option. We like Portugal so that is where we are heading in March.
That brings us to our last trip out of Panama. For Christmas and New Year we went to Aruba. Not much to say about it, tiny island with not much to do. Again, full of Americans. It has a few nice restaurants and we had dinner on Christmas day on the beach (table actually on the sand). We went back to this restaurant again that week and sat on the table next to Bjorn Borg. They call Aruba one happy island, not sure why, and say people come back often. The only reason I can see for repeat visits is if you smoke. For the first time in years I was smoked over in restaurants, it was horrible. It is the main reason I would never go back. In the TRNC when the ban came in it became a little more bearable but sitting outside was still a nightmare. In Panama we have become accustomed to no one smoking as even outside in restaurants it is not allowed. Also it is rare to see anyone walking down the street smoking and if they are, they are American or Canadian, I can’t think of any time that I have seen a Panamanian smoke, this was also true of Nicaragua and Belize. It is quite literally a breath of fresh air. I just hope Portugal is as clean living and respectful of people’s health and well being.
So, our next adventure is about to begin. It’s tchau Panama, bom dia Portugal. For our first 2 weeks we have an apartment in Lisbon and then we move to a house in Safara a small village on the border with Spain in central Portugal, not a tourist or expat spot, so maybe finally a normal life. We will still travel but hopefully soon we will, have our own home to come back to as rentals after 18 months have become a nightmare, I long for a bed of my own.
We have learnt a lot on our journey and look forward to new lessons and experiences, good and bad they teach you a lot.
Links to previous articles:
Part 1 – Cyprus to Panama – Anita’s Diary – Endings and Beginnings – click here
Part 2 – Las Lajas – click here
Part 3 – Christmas and New Year in Panama – click here
Part 4 – a new year, a new car and a new address – click here
Part 5 – Nicaragua – click here
Part 6 – Panama City and Colombia – click here